Posted: Tue 1st Feb 2022

Longer school day trial gets under way in Wales but union says ‘little evidence’ of benefits’

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Feb 1st, 2022

A trial that extends the school day is now underway in Wales but a teaching union has said there is little evidence around the benefits of keeping pupils at school longer.

NAHT Cymru has urged the Welsh government to “be honest and clear” about the motivation behind reforming the school day.

Fourteen primary and secondary schools – non of which are in North Wales –  trialling the extended day are funded to provide extra activities such as art, music and sport as well as core academic sessions.

Over 1,800 learners will take part in the trial, benefitting from five hours of extra activity per week over a ten week period.

The trial, which follows a Welsh government commitment to explore reform of the school day, is focused on supporting disadvantaged pupils and schools particularly affected during the pandemic.

The plans draw on international models and proposals made by the Education Policy Institute.

Teachers have decided how and what is delivered in each of the thirteen schools and one college during the trial period, working with external partners or adapting existing activities such as after school clubs.

The scheme is a commitment of the Welsh Government’s Co-Operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru. The results of the trial and the next steps will be considered with Plaid Cymru as part of the Co-Operation Agreement.

One of the schools involved in the trial is Abertillery Learning Community who will be providing after-school provision for an hour a day as part of the trial, including additional sporting activities such as Mixed Martial Arts.

Education minister Jeremy Miles said: “We know from research that young people can gain in confidence and well-being from this approach, especially disadvantaged learners.”

“Programmes which provide enriching and stimulating additional sessions and support learners to re-engage with learning can have a greater impact on attainment than those that are solely academic in focus.”

“The trial is a great opportunity to gather further evidence on how we use and structure time at school and how that might evolve in the future.”

“We will be learning how these additional sessions might improve well-being, academic progression and increased social and cultural capital.”

“As we move forward, we will continue to support schools with even stronger community engagement so that we deliver on our mission to tackle the impact of poverty on educational attainment and achieve high standards for all.”

Laura Doel, director of education trade union NAHT Cymru, said there may be some educational benefits to reforming the school year and “we are open to discussions on what those benefits may be.”

She said: “All the focus from the Welsh Government has been on the school day fitting in with family life and working patterns, with no mention of the education benefit to learners.

“All the evidence available suggests that there is little or no data that supports keeping learners in school for longer because longer periods in school does not increase a child’s capacity to learn.”

“If the Welsh Government’s plan is to support working families with a national childcare offer, then they should come out and say that.

“Schools are not childcare providers and our profession of dedicated school leaders, teachers and support staff should not be expected to take on additional work and responsibility to do this.

“We urge the Welsh Government to be honest and clear with the profession about the motivation behind reforming the school day.

“If it is about childcare, then they need to direct that conversation with those who work in that field and allow school leaders to focus on their core business of teaching and learning.”

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